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WHY CARE ABOUT NANOTECHNOLOGY?
by Eric Drexler, Ph.D.

Because technology is reshaping human life, and nanotechnology is where technology is going. Today'snanoscale science and technology includes research anddevelopment on the cutting edge of a broad range of fields.The term "nanotechnology" has been applied whereverscientists and technologists are grappling with thefundamental building blocks of matter, atoms and molecules.

Nanoscale science and technology includes the frontiers of chemistry, materials, medicine, and computer hardware -the research that enables the continuing technology revolution.

Tomorrow's nanotechnology will be much more.

As nanoscale technologies advance, they will enable thedevelopment of molecular manufacturing, a more systematic and powerful nanotechnology using nanoscale machines to
build large-scale, atomically precise products cleanly, at lowcost. This sort of nanotechnology -- the vision that inspired the field as a whole - will transform our physical technology
from the bottom up, enabling digital control of the structure of matter.

How important will this be?

Its products will cure cancer and replace fossil fuels, yet those advances will, in retrospect, seem a minor part of thewhole.

Any technology this powerful will bring both dangers andopportunities. Much has been made of a concern I raised in 1986, under the name "gray goo" -- a hypothetical scenario
involving runaway replicators. Building fully self-replicating machines would be difficult, however, and building machinesthat could replicate without external help would be moredifficult still. Current work in the field shows that it will beeasier and more efficient to develop molecularmanufacturing without building any self-replicating machines at all.

Advanced molecular manufacturing systems will be desktop-scale factories making large, useful products. The danger isn't that the factories will do something uncontrolled,but that hostile forces will use them to produce new, decisively powerful weapons. Only vigorous research can produce a stable defense. Thus, advanced nanotechnologies are as crucial to security as they are to medicine, economic productivity, and the future of Earth's environment.

Why do something about nanotechnology, if you're not working in the field?

Because it matters whether we go down the right path indeveloping and applying these powerful capabilities.Remarkably, in the U.S. today, the senior national leadershipin nanoscale science and technology is in denial about thefuture of the field. Research is accordingly misdirected, anddiscussion of legitimate concerns has been distorted byofficial disinformation and politically motivated attacks. Fresh voices, not tied to the politics of the federal grant process, can help to redirect the field and open an honest dialog
about its future....read the wave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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